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The Consumer Advocate Who Advocated Voting as Consumption

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Excellent piece by Michelle Goldberg on why Ralph Nader was the perfect vanity candidate:

In retrospect, the paradox of the Nader campaign is that the high priest of anti-consumerism turned voting into an act of individual self-affirmation, a kind of lifestyle choice. He addressed voters the way companies address consumers—as atomized individuals whose personal experience is paramount. “Welcome to the politics of joy and justice!” he roared at the Garden. Despite the zero-sum structure of American presidential elections, he told voters they needn’t settle for one of two dispiriting mass-market options built of innumerable compromises, or worry about the broader effects of their vote. This was bespoke politics.

Nader’s movement never constituted a real cross section of the left; even sympathetic observers noted that it was overwhelmingly white. After attending another of Nader’s massive rallies in Chicago, Salim Muwakkil wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “This lack of racial diversity among Nader supporters is particularly striking, given the 66-year-old candidate’s progressive positions on economic democracy and social justice.” Yet plenty of people on the left saw Nader as the era’s great political hope. “Nader and the Green Party represent the best opportunity in half a century to place a progressive agenda on the national scene,” wrote Juan Gonzalez in the left-wing magazine In These Times. He added: “It has brought hundreds of thousands of white youth into electoral politics in much the same way that Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition movement brought disaffected blacks to the voting booth in the ’80s.”

And he’s still upset that Bernie Sanders isn’t the obscenely self-regarding crank that he is:

Ultimately, though, Nader’s most powerful example was negative, providing Bernie Sanders with a template of what not to do. Sanders, says Nader said, is “obsessed by the way I was shunned. He hasn’t returned a call in 17 years. He’s told people 100 times he didn’t want to run a Nader campaign.” Determined not to be marginalized as Nader was, Sanders worked within the Democratic Party instead of going to war with it.

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